Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Harvard Club Raid

Federal Bureau of Investigation
John Edgar Hoover, Director
May 12, 1936

MEMORANDUM FOR THE DIRECTOR

Re: Police Corruption in CLEVELAND, OHIO.

On January 10, 1936, the Prosecutor's Office of Cuyahoga County, Ohio, raided the Harvard Club. The Bueau has made no independent investigation concerning this raid, but slippings from the January 11, 1936 issue of the Cleveland Press discloses that John Sulzman, Sheriff of Cuyahoga County, took no part in the raid; that the County Prosecutor enlisted the cooperation and aid of twenty-five private detectives and armed with search warrants endeavored to serve such warrants at the Harvard Club.

They were met with formidable resistance, however, by Jimmy Patton, who threatened to "mow down" the raiding party with machine guns and held the raiding party at bay for six hours, during which time all the gambling equipment at the Harvard Club was moved away by trucks. It was finally necessary for the Safety Director of Cleveland to proceed to the Harvard Club, located just outside city limits, with a party of policemen to gain entrance to the Club.

This action was necessary because the Sheriff, when called by the Prosecutor's raiding party for aid, refused to send assistance, even though his office was notified that the Prosecutor's raiding party had been threatened with machine guns. It is evident, therefore, that the proprietors of the Harvard Club were closely connected with politicians and those in power in Cleveland.

It is desired to point out particularly the "hard boiled" attitude assumed by James "Shimmy" Patton, who threatened to "mow down" the raiding party. The newspapers setting forth this information are probably correct in the attitutde which was assumed by Patton as well be shown herein below:

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On February 24, 1936, Mr. W.G. Harper, Operative in Charge of the United States Secret Service, Treasury Department, Cleveland, Ohio, was interview by Special Agent [[redacted]] Mr. Harper stated that when the Harvard Club was closed by the local authorities information is to the effect that the raid was so planned as to give Elliot (sic) Ness, recently appointed Safety Director of Cleveland, a political buildup.

The Cleveland newspapers have given a great deal of publicity to the raid and to the fact that Sheriff John M. Sulzmann refused to come to the aid of County Prosecutor Frank T. Cullitan, when Cullitan found it impossible to gain entrance into the Harvard Club. A news item appearing in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, dated January 11, 1936 is quoted as follows:
"For nearly six hours last night operators of the Harvard Club held County Prosecutor Frank T. Cullitan, his staff and twenty special constables at bay after they appeared at the expensive gambling resort in Newburg heights to raid it simultaneously with a surprise attack on the Thomas Club in Maple heights, which yielded without resistance.

From sunset until nearly 11 last night the prosecutor and his force of men were repulsed by threats from the operators of the Harvard Club to 'mow down' the constables with machine guns if they tried to batter in the doors.

The Harvard Club was stormed only after Safety Director Eliot Ness, acting, he said, 'as a private citizen,' took several police squads to the prosecutor's aid.

Cullitan pleaded in vain for help from the city police department and from Sulzmann, the country's chief law enforcement officer."
Entrance having been finally gained after a six hour seige, the prosecutor and his deputies found that all of the gambling equipment had been removed by the aid of trucks. The paper goes on to state that after entrance had been gained "Hebebrand and his aids walked into the money-counting room of the club on the pretext of getting their hats and coats, and escaped by climbing through a small window near the roof of the resort, and dropping ten feet to the ground outside."

The paper continues -
"A few minutes later Sheriff Sulzmann, ill in bed at his home, sent word to Cullitan, the prosecutor said, that he would not send aid or protection unless it was requested by Mayor Jerry Sticha of Newburh Heights, 'in accordance with my home rule policy.' Cullitan had previously tried time after time to reach Sticha at his home, but was told he was not there.
The paper gives the following details concerning the raid:
"Patton (James "Shimmy" Patton who is well known to this Bureau) cursing profusely, rushed toward Cullitan. Cullitan tried to accomplish his task peacefully.

'Anyone that goes in there,' Patton cried, 'gets their _______ head knocked off. You've got your _______ home at stake and we got our _______ property at stake.'

'I've tried every decent way I could --' Cullitan began.

'No, you haven't,' Patton broke in.

'This is my job to close this place,' Cullitan said.

'Why don't you quit your job?' Patton shot back.
The Cleveland News, dated January 11, 1936 stated as follows:
"Mr Cullitan also had 'nothing to say' when asked if he would take any action against village officials who allowed gambling joints to operate so openly in violation of law."
The Cleveland Plain Dealer, dated January 14, 1936 quotes Eliot Ness, Safety Director, as follows:
"'I did not know Sheriff Sulzmann excepting through the newspapers,' Ness said. 'I haven't met him yet, but I consider I know him thoroughly since his refusal to send deputies to the aid of County Prosecutor Cullitan.'

'When John Flynn, my assistant director, went to County Jail he found six deputies just sitting -- perhaps waiting for the millennium. He got no satisfaction from Jailer Murphy. Neither did I. We both pointed out Mr. Cullitan's plight, and we both got the answer: 'The sheriff stands by his home rule policy -- he must request from the mayor of Newburg Heights.'

'It Can't Happen Here', the title of one of our best sellers, would be true locally if applied to the sheriff rescuing the prosecuting attorney. Hence the recent raids became news here, although they would not have been news in many cities.

'I want to say seriously to you and to all of the better element, that we must have the public with us. That means good citizens must not neglect their full duty.'"
The above quotation was taken from a speech given by Eliot Ness at the Cleveland Athletic Club before the Odovene Club, composed of Ohio Wesleyan University Alumni.

That the raid conducted by Frank T. Cullitan is alleged to have its political aspects is shown in a news item appearing in the Cleveland Plain Dealer dated January 29, 1936, which is quoted as follows:
"County Prosecutor Frank T. Cullitan's recent raid on the Harvard and Thomas Clubs was described last night as a plot 'cooked up' by an assistant county prosecutor to embarrass Sheriff John M. Sulzmann's campaign for Congress in the Twentieth District and to benefit Congressman Martin L. Sweeney."
The news item goes on to state:
"The ward leaders voted to endorse Sulzmann for Congress and to call a meeting next week of the 277 precinct committeement in the district to submit Sulzmann's candidacy to them."
For your information Sulzmann was defeated in the primaries.

News items appearing in the Cleveland newspapers are very laudatory of the appointment and conduct of Eliot Ness as Public Safety Director of Cleveland. He was particularly praised for his action in assisting County Prosecutor Cullitan, "as a private citizen" during the raid on the Harvard Club. News items have also stated that numerous raids are being conducted by police squads in an effort to clean up gambling conditions in Cleveland.

The Cleveland News dated January 11, 1936, refers to Ness as follows:
It was Mr. Ness who, when Sheriff Sulzmann, from his sickbed, refused to send aid to Cullitan, took the bull by the horns and led 33 Cleveland police officers and men to the Harvard Club to protect Cullitan from possible violence."
Referring to Cullitan the same paper states:
"The prosecutor, his job of closing the two notorious gaming resorts done, offered no criticism either of Sheriff Sulzmann's refusal to help, or f the lethargy of Newburg Heights and Maple heights officials in failing to close the clubs."
Referring to Eliot Ness' move to clean up conditions in Cleveland, the Cleveland News dated January 9, 1936 is quoted as follows:
"On orders from Safety Director Ness a meeting of policy operators was called by Deputy Inspector Frank W. Story at the E. 35th St. - Longwood Ct. police station Tuesday night.

'Fold up of your own accord or we will fold you up,' Inspector Story told them.

Along lower Scovill Ave., once the most open vice district in the city, officers are visiting houses and ordering all transient girls to move out of the city. Only those who can provie their legitimate homes are in the houses are being permitted to remain.

Bookmakers still exist, doing a curb or telephone business, but the gambling resorts have disappeared. Gamblers who prospered in Cleveland last year are reported to have either left town or to be making plans to heads for other cities where the law enforcement is more casual.

The order has gone out for the cleanup.

The police department knows Director Ness means business."
In praise of the work of Safety Director Ness the Cleveland News of January 11, 1936 carries and editorial containing the following:
"While we're cherring, let's fill the air with three long hurrahs and nine sharps rahs for Eliot Ness."
Respectfully,
K.R. McIntire.
Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FOIA)

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